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“Hello, this is Kate Grenville. I’m going to read from The Secret River.
The Alexander, with its cargo of convicts, had bucked over the face of the ocean for the better part of a year. Now it had fetched up at the end of the earth. There was no lock on the door of the hut where William Thornhill, transported for the term of his natural life, was passing his first night in His Majesty’s penal colony of New South Wales. There was hardly a door, barely a wall: only a flap of bark, a screen of sticks and mud. There was no need of lock, of door, of wall: this was a prison whose bars were ten thousand miles of water.
Thornhill’s wife was sleeping sweet and peaceful against him, her hand still entwined in his. The child and the baby were asleep too, curled up together. Only Thornhill could not bring himself to close his eyes on this foreign darkness. Through the doorway of the hut he could feel the night, huge and damp, flowing in and bringing with it the sounds of its own life: tickings and creakings, small private rustlings, and beyond that the soughing of the forest, mile after mile.
When he got up and stepped out through the doorway there was no cry, no guard: only the living night. The air moved around him, full of rich dank smells. Trees stood tall over him. A breeze shivered through the leaves, then died, and left only the vast fact of the forest.
He was nothing more than a flea on the side of some enormous creature.
Above him in the sky a thin moon and a scatter of stars were as meaningless as spilt rice. There was no Pole Star here, a friend to guide him on the Thames, no Great Bear that he had known all his life: only this blaze, unreadable, indifferent.
All the many months in the Alexander, lying in the hammock that was all the territory he could claim in the world, listening to the sea slap against the side of the ship and trying to hear the voices of his own wife in the noise from the women’s quarters, he had been comforted by telling over the bends of his own River Thames. The Isle of Dogs, the deep eddying pool of Rotherhithe, the sudden twist of the sky as the river swung around the corner to Lambeth: they were all as intimate to him as breathing. Daniel Ellison grunted in his hammock beside him, fighting even in his sleep, the women were silent beyond their bulkhead, and still in the eye of his mind he rounded bend after bend of that river.”
ABOUT KATE GRENVILLE:
Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s finest writers. Her bestselling novel The Secret River has been published in more than twenty countries. It has received numerous awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. The companion memoir, Searching for the Secret River, was released in 2006. The Idea of Perfection won Britain’s prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction, and her other award-winning novels, which include The Lieutenant, Lilian’s Story, Dark Places and Joan Makes History, have become modern classics. Kate’s most recent novel Sarah Thornhill was published in Australia in September 2011 and three weeks after publication it reached #3 on the best seller list. It will be published in the UK, US and Canada in early 2012.
For more information about Kate’s writing visit her website at http://kategrenville.com
Kate Grenville has been working on her next book at Varuna
Bearded Ladies, 1984
Lilian’s Story, 1985
Joan Makes History, 1988
Dark Places (Albion’s Story), 1994
The Idea of Perfection, 1999
The Secret River, 2005
The Lieutenant, 2008
Sarah Thornhill, 2011
The Writing Book
Writing from Start to Finish
Searching for the Secret River
Agent: Barbara Mobbs
PO Box 126
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